Saturday, June 9, 2012

Christian Fundamentalism Threatens Civil Liberty As One Group Targets Children for Conversion

DATA DRIVEN VIEW POINT:  Below is another article detailing what the Child Evangelism Fellowship is up to these days with respect to our children.  It is disturbing.  The article is posted on  PoliticusUSA.
At some point in America we need to have that difficult and uncomfortable conversation about where to set the limits on fundamentalist Christianity.  We do not, or should not want Christian despotism to replace our democratic republic.  We need to reclaim the founders unshakable belief, born from bitter experiences in Europe, that true civil liberty includes freedom from religious intolerance.

In his 1689 "A Letter Concerning Toleration", John Locke wrote, "Absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty, is the thing that we stand in need of."  
He went on to write, "The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion, is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind, as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it, in so clear a light."  
He warned that if the business of civil government is not kept distinct from that of religion, "... there can be no end put to the controversies that will always arise between those that have, or at least pretend to have, on the one side, a concernment for the interests of men's souls and, on the other side, a care of the commonwealth."  

The problem, of course, isn't with Christianity but with people whose interpretation of it compels them to aggressively seek the conversion or conformity of others.   None of this behavior is evident in the life of Jesus.  He successfully shifted the focus of spiritual awareness from the public square to the human heart where it belongs.  His interactions with others were sincerely personal, not political.  His deeds reflected compassion for human suffering without regard to their status, vocation, gender or social affiliations.  He was tolerant of all but those who preached intolerance in his day.  People followed him because they wanted to be like him. 

Intolerance and Christianity should be incompatible, yet throughout history intolerant forms of Christianity have emerged and gained prominence.  In every case the result has been enormous human suffering.  It was intolerant Christian ideology in Europe that drove many of the early settlers here to America.  Later, the memory of Christian oppression and despotism in Europe cause our founders to establish a civil government that was distinct and separate from religion.  As fervent as their Christian beliefs were, they did not whan civil government to endorse or enforce their religious values.  It is a fair statement that intolerant Christianity is un-American, yet we see it emerging today.
What we face today is increasingly similar to what John Locke faced in 1689.  Courageous citizens back then withstood extreme social pressure and the threat of punishment or death by raising a  public debate on these issues.  We need to find the courageous to reject religious intolerance here in America today while the stakes aren't quite so high

Fundamentalist Christian Predators Target School Children

It's a scary world; not the world I grew up in where we kids could run up and down the street and walk safely to our elementary school just under a mile away, play at the park and generally make the whole neighborhood our play area.

Today you’d normally worry about sexual predators but there are those who prey on children’s minds as well – we call them fundamentalist Christians.

Meet Child Evangelism Fellowship(CEF). They should be on a wanted poster. For creepification factor they rank pretty high, right up there with the infamous Hitler Youth-like Jesus camps.

These people think your children are fair game. All children are fair game. They have not only a right, they think, but a moral obligation to brainwash any child they come across. And your children aren’t safe as a result.

Time magazine took a look at them back in 2001 (they’ve been around since 1937), the CEF calling themselves “America’s best kept secret.” First Amendment group Jews on First warned about them in 2006. And scary as they are, they’re still not widely known.

This is how they describe themselves:

Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church.
And they know how to get kids – just like a sexual predator: candy. As Timerelated:
To sustain interest in the club, leaders use every imaginable child enticement: colorful Jesus dolls, cheery songs and mountains of sugar. The Pleasant Gap session starts with a round of cookies. At another club nearby, kids who answer scriptural questions get pelted with candy fired out of a spring-loaded catapult. Children get $1 in fake money for coming and $2 for bringing a friend. Every few months, they can redeem the "money" for–guess what?–more candy.
At every meeting, the club leader asks if anyone would like to accept Jesus as his Saviour. If a child raises his hand, the leader has a one-on-one conversation with him to see if he is ready to be "saved" then and there.
Not my kid, Thor willing. There is a reason my Heathen ancestors saw Red Thor as their defender against the White Christ: the missionaries wanted their children as well. Unfortunately, in those days the fundamentalists could not only threaten violence but engage in it so they got the children – and the parents – in the end anyway.
This is also why Radbod the Frisian told the missionaries he would rather join his ancestors in hell than to heaven with a handful of beggars. This is why Charlemagne had to slaughter the Pagan Saxons by the thousands.
Some of us just don’t want to be proselytized to. It should be illegal. They should have the right to put the information out there: we’ll find it if we want to. But they should have no right to go after people.
It won’t be quite as easy for them this time but fundamentalists have always been sneaky. They will use any avenue you give them – rather like that Satan guy they like to talk about. Funny their tactics should be so similar – or is it?
By their own admission, there are many tentacles to this Cthulhu-like creature:
The Good News Club and 5-Day Club ministries take place in neighborhood settings such as homes, backyards, schools and community centers all over the world. These fast-paced, one-hour programs are designed to bring the Gospel of Christ to children on their level in their environment.
The Truth Chasers Club  is an exciting Bible correspondence course designed to disciple children and adults. God has allowed us to reach over 387,000 people (70% of that number children) in more than 130 countries!
Along with these clubs, CEF also has fair, camping, open-air, and internet ministries for children. Last year through these combined ministries over 10 million children worldwide heard the good news with over one million making professions of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The problem comes in with, as might be expected, a Supreme Court ruling during the Bush presidency. From Wikipedia:
Both of these programs focus on training church members from various evangelical churches to effectively teach children in homes, neighborhood centers and schools. On June 11, 2001 the USA Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing CEF's Good News Clubs to meet in public elementary schools after school hours, based on equal access and protection from viewpoint discrimination. Since that time CEF has been working to establish Good News Clubs in public schools around the USA. Currently, there are Good News Clubs in over 3000 public elementary schools.
As far as their curriculum goes, that’s a little tricky, as psychologist Valerie Tarico related last year on her blog (reposted at K-12 News Network): "If you ask, they won’t share the curriculum or lesson plans. The materials are tightly held, so parents don’t have a good idea of what this is. They had posted that parents are welcome, so we sat in on two of their sessions and saw some stuff that was not actually kosher. Then they told us that we were no longer welcome."
They teach a very fairy tale version of the Christian faith. For example, they give the kids little puzzle toys that are fun to play with but really it is a wordless tract. A black heart shows the original sin in each child, gold is heaven, a red cross represents the blood of Christ, a white heart represents the pure child who has found salvation. My kid played with it for 20 minutes. I didn’t tell her what it is supposed to represent. The idea is that the kids bring it to school and other kids ask about it.
These kids are easy to manipulate. Cake, cookies, balloons are very attractive to them. They use enticements like these to get children to say to their parents, “Can I go?” Children can’t tell the difference between good news club and school sponsored activities like chess club.
Remember, what they told Pagan critic Celsus 1800 years ago still holds true today: “Do not ask questions: Just believe!” You can examine this “black heart” bit for yourself on their site here.
Wikipedia relates one method of protecting our children from this spiritual predation:
The Child Evangelism Fellowship was prohibited by the Elk River, Minnesota board of education to distribute materials in that district's schools during open houses in 2007 and 2008. The Fellowship took the matter to U.S. District Court. In February, 2009, Judge Ann Montgomery ruled that the school district's order deprived the Fellowship of its freedom of speech rights. She went on to say that the school district could still prevent the group from distributing materials if it adopted a policy of closing the schools to all such groups, which the school district did in March, 2009.
It is a pity that the innocent must suffer so that the innocent can be protected but that is the sorry state of things in a nation with First Amendment protections.  Justice David Souter dissenting from the 2001 decision, writing: ''It is beyond question that Good News intends to use the public school premises not for the mere discussion of a subject from a particular, Christian point of view, 'but for an evangelical service of worship calling children to commit themselves in an act of Christian conversion.' ">
Groups like the CEF will take every advantage and then some. According to Valerie Tarico,
CEF has systematically violated all of the conditions of the supreme court decision.  They clearly are not about character education they are about reaching children who are unchurched and bringing them into their belief system.  In this mission, they try to leverage the legitimacy of the school setting. By putting fliers in kids’ back packs they are clearly using the school’s communication channels.  By trying to put an Ad in the PTA auction book at our school they tried to use the other vehicles of the school to legitimize what they are doing and to integrate it with the school’s activities. 
We have already seen the ruthlessness with which the Christian fundamentalist-bolstered GOP treats its enemies. There is no lie they will not tell in the pursuit of what they see to be a greater truth and no low to which they will not stoop to push what they see as their privilege on others. One of them told Time back in 2001: “"We're not trying to grab kids and indoctrinate them. We're not a bunch of weirdos,"
But that is exactly what they’re trying to do, grab kids and indoctrinate them, and not their own kids, but your kids, our kids, my kids.
The old Christian cry of Deus vult (God wills it!) dating from the First Crusade – or at least its spirit – is with us still. And like those who found themselves in the path of those crusaders, chilled our hearts should be.

The Truth About Religion in America: The Founders Loathed Superstition and We Were Never A Christian Nation 

The claim that America was founded as a Christian nation -- a favorite of Right-wing Christians -- is just not true.

Once they begin to circulate, falsehoods—like counterfeit currency—are surprisingly tenacious. It doesn’t matter that there’s no backing for them. The only thing that counts is that people believe they have backing. Then, like bad coins, they turn up again and again.  [Click link to view this article

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